UC Santa Barbara (20-10) at Idaho (18-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 14, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cowan Spectrum (7,000) -- Moscow, Idaho. Television: None. CIT Record: UC Santa Barbara 0-0, Idaho 1-2. Series Record: UC Santa Barbara leads 12-7.
GAME NOTES: The Idaho Vandals will play in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament for the second straight year when the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos come to Cowan Spectrum for first round action this evening.
Last season Idaho also got a bid to the CIT but lost in the first round to San Francisco. This year's bid marks the third postseason appearance in four years and the Vandals third time playing in the CIT, with a tournament record of 1-2. Idaho dropped its opening round matchup in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament but had won seven of its previous eight games prior to that.
UC Santa Barbara made a deeper run in its conference tournament falling to regular season champion Long Beach State in the Big West Conference Tournament final. The win ended a five-game winning streak for the Gauchos, their longest of the season. UC Santa Barbara has never played in the CIT.
For two squads matching up in a postseason tournament these teams actually have a decent amount of history between them with 19 previous meetings. UC Santa Barbara has been the better team historically with 12 wins against the Vandals. This will be the first time these teams will be meeting in the postseason.
UC Santa Barbara came out and played well against a heavily favored Long Beach State squad in the Big West Tournament title game and went into the half down by only two points, 36-34. In the second half the Gauchos stumbled and eventually fell too far behind, losing by double digits, 77-64. Despite knocking down more total field goals than the 49ers (27-25), the Gauchos were outscored from three-point range (42-18) and the free-throw line (13-4).
Powering the Gauchos this season has been the high-octane duo of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally. Johnson, a senior guard and three-time All-Big West First-Team selection, led the conference in scoring this season (19.7 ppg) and the team in assists (3.0 pg). Johnson had 17 points in Saturday's loss to Long Beach State which extended his streak of games in double figures to 21. Nunnally (15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) would be the lead scorer on a number of other squads and certainly knows how to fill up the basket as well. After those two the teams offensive production takes a severe dip with Jaime Serna (8.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) the next best scoring option on a team that averaged 72.6 points per game this season. The Gauchos allowed 65.8 points per contest and were the conference's leading rebounding squad (37.8 pg), led by Allan Williams (6.6 rpg).
Idaho watched its conference tournament run end at just one game when a Hauns Brereton jumper in the final seconds lifted Hawaii to a 72-70 win in the first round of the WAC Tournament last Thursday. The Vandals led 35-28 at the half but allowed the Rainbow Warriors back into the game, despite outscoring Hawaii 18-6 from three-point range.
The Vandals lack the scoring punch that Johnson and Nunnally provide for UCSB, but they do have balance, with three different players averaging at least 12.0 points per game. Deremy Geiger (12.9 ppg) is the team's leading offensive weapon but only by a slight margin. Junior center Kyle Barone (12.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is right behind the senior guard and finished the season as the fifth best rebounder in the WAC. Sophomore guard Stephen Madison (12.0 ppg) rounds out the top threats and has been an efficient marksman from three-point range this season (.374). The Vandals are behind the Gauchos in terms of quantity on offense (69.5 ppg) but have been a very good shooting team this season (.478) leading the conference, while ranking 21st in the nation in field goal percentage.
Idaho was 10-4 at home this season but the Vandals are going up against a UC Santa Barbara team that has been tough on the road (7-6). With the Gauchos' ability to light up the scoreboard, this should be a win for the Big West.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Santa Barbara 73, Idaho 65
03/14 10:35:07 ET